The role of religion and faith in our lives is no doubt something worth considering and there are two recent issues which deal with the role of God in our lives: that of a six-year-old girl who was abducted and sexually assaulted in The Pas, and that of brain-dead baby Isaiah May in Edmonton.
The girl was walking to school when a teenage male abducted her. There he sexually assaulted her before she escaped.
Most sexual abuse victims are too traumatized to recall the details of their abuse, making it difficult for authorities to arrest the abusers. The girl in this story was, quite incredibly, able to recall the exact location of the assault, as well as the details of the house’s interior and the appearance of the resident. The arrest was made within hours of the assault.
Isaiah May was born in October 2009 with his umbilical cord wrapped around his throat. The oxygen deprivation at birth did catastrophic damage to Isaiah’s brain and he was placed on life support instantly. The doctors at the hospital knew that Isaiah would never recover from the trauma and recommended he be removed from life support.
The Mays vehemently opposed this decision and people across the continent rallied in support of little Isaiah’s right to life. Isaiah’s parents sought the second opinion of another doctor, in the hopes that he would offer a better prognosis. A second opinion found that Isaiah be removed from life support and on March 12 he was.
Both of these stories recount events that most people cannot imagine dealing with. The trauma of sexual abuse is life long, and the pain of losing one’s firstborn child mere months after meeting him is a pain nobody wishes to encounter. What is interesting about these issues is what those involved had to say afterward.
The mother of the sexually-abused girl was quoted as saying, “I’m not a religious person, I don’t go to church ... but I do have faith in God, I think she had an angel.” The parents of Isaiah May called Isaiah “a little miracle” and said that he is “now home in the arms of the angels.”
Religious debate aside, one must carefully consider the weight of those two statements. The mother of the abused girl is suggesting that, of all those who are victims of sexual abuse worldwide, God chose to assist her little girl in identifying her attacker. It also suggests that God was aware of the little girl’s sexual abuse and chose to wait until afterward to assist her, as opposed to stopping the entire thing from happening.
In this same vein, the parents of Isaiah May are suggesting that Isaiah’s birth and survival was an act of God whom, supposedly, allowed Isaiah to live and ignored the plight of countless other childbirth tragedies. Not only is this a presumptuous thing to say, but it completely discounts the work of the doctors and the feats of technology that were actually responsible for Isaiah’s survival.
A recent study by Scott Schieman at the University of Toronto shows that this mindset is not limited only to those under extreme emotional and psychological duress. His study found that eight out of 10 Americans depend on God for decision-making guidance, while seven in 10 believe that when bad things happen, it is part of God’s divine plan. Six in 10 believe that God has actually planned the course of their entire lives already. Schieman admits the numbers are lower in Canada, but not by all that much.
People choose to accept God as a close personal friend because it brings comfort. Where this mindset loses traction, however, is when God supposedly starts taking sides. Are we really so self-absorbed to believe that God puts us at the top of his priority list?
If God is able to intervene in our daily lives, he sure has a lot of explaining to do in places like Haiti and Darfur.
It’s time we start taking a look at how we view God in our lives and consider his existence on a global scale, not just a personal one.
Until we can all sort out these questions ourselves, we should stop assuming that there is an all-powerful being and we are his top priority.
Liam Scott is a first year student at the University of Winnipeg.
Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)